Contrarian's Notebook

Disquieting Thoughts on Matters Cultural and Personal

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

On the Eating of Laundry Soap: The Tide Pod Challenge

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Years ago, my wife and I attended an exhibit of the original drawings of cartoons published in the The New Yorker . One I still remember is below.

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It’s funny because the cartoonist has captured something real about our society, especially about the sophisticated, career-driven set who read The New Yorker. Using the clown’s privilege of telling hard truths others would be punished for telling, the cartoonist is pointing out the neglect of children rampant in our materialistic, secular culture.

As society has become more secular, more focused on success, more obsessed with material acquisition, relationships of all kinds have become strained. This is particularly true for familial relationships. A simple look at the divorce rate confirms this, as does a simple observation of the millions of young people who, in one way or another, are trying to burn a message about their need for love wherever someone might see.

And it’s not just the children of the crowd who reads The New Yorker. Working class families are equally fragile, perhaps more so.  

The cartoon above draws our attention not just to the prevalence of child neglect, but also to something else equally disturbing. The cartoon also exposes the many parents who blind themselves to the damage neglect does to children. When the child acts out, that behavior is dismissed by parents. They don’t take it seriously. They refuse to see their children’s need for love even when it is emblazoned unmissably on the very walls of the home.

This denial is not merely individual, but societal. Our society’s children signal their messages about their need for guidance, stability and values in increasingly extreme ways and few take them seriously.

Consider the development, recently revealed in the news media, of young people eating laundry soap as a means entertainment in what is being called the Tide Pod Challenge. Essentially, young people have been inserting small containers of laundry detergent into their mouths and biting down, releasing the contents. Presumably, most don’t swallow.

Those taking the Tide Pod Challenge document this dangerous behavior in order to post the video online and enjoy the resulting wave of affirmation.

The revelation of the Tide pod challenge has produced a number of media stories warning people of the possible dangers of ingesting laundry soap and urging them not to participate in the fad.

As incredible as it is to need to say this, it is, apparently, necessary, so here goes : a society that must undertake a massive media campaign aimed at teaching its young people not to eat laundry soap is not a healthy society. The American anti-culture has created a generation so broken, anxious, ignorant and desperate, some are literally poisoning themselves.

On the other hand, what would we expect from the young in a society unwilling to nourish them spiritually and emotionally? It’s inevitable  that some of them would, in the search for the solid food of soul-sustaining faith and tradition, try almost anything.

Our materialistic, secular, atomized lifestyles have, in other words, produced young people starved for what really matters. Still, most don’t see. We are like the woman in the New Yorker cartoon, blandly denying the child’s legitimate need for attention because acknowledging it would disrupt her agenda.

Even now, most people will dismiss the Tide Pod Challenge as something the crazy kids are doing, as if eating laundry soap in an attempt to gain affirmation and attention from strangers on the Internet were akin to their parents’ passing fascinations with pet rocks or Rubik’s Cubes.

It’s not the same. The Tide Pod Challenge is more. It is a sign of collapse, sign of decadence, a sign of a society limping toward its own demise. A society that, rather than offer its young resources for cultivating meaning,  literally motivates them to poison themselves has arrived at its end.

The best we can do is to cultivate places of refuge where we can: in our homes, in our churches, in our hearts.  We can protect our children from the ravages of an anti-culture bent on their destruction. We can nourish ourselves and others with the faith handed down to us and the treasures of our now fading civilization.

The cultural rot surrounding us need not spread to the culture in our home. We can pay attention to our children. We can mentor others. We can resolve to snatch what few we can from the coming destruction. We can make available to them the satisfying riches and wisdom of the best of what has come before and, in so doing, prepare for those around us, in the middle of a sick and malnourished society, a feast.

You Are Only A Unit of Production

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Sometimes, the evening just calls for pizza. We recently had an evening just like this. I can’t remember exactly what was happening, probably some combination of children’s activities and parental fatigue, but for whatever reason, we decided to forgo our regular dinner rituals and pop over to the local franchise of my wife’s favorite national chain.

Because we buy there several times a year, we always carry a take-out card. Basically, it’s a business card someone at the store marks on whenever you pick up a pizza. After ten pizzas, you get a free one.

A while ago, we redeemed our last take-out card. My wife had been in once since then. On her trip, she had asked for a new take-out card. They had none, but someone said he’d just  write the date on a piece of paper and count that toward our next free pizza.

When I went in recently, I asked for a new take-out card. The kid behind the counter looked dumbstruck. He had to check with a woman I assumed was his superior.  They didn’t have any carry-out cards. I asked if she could just write the date and our order on a piece of paper. No, she said, she was not authorized to write things on pieces of paper.

I explained that someone had just done this very thing for my wife when she was in two weeks before. “Well,” the woman said, squinting her eyes and rubbing the flour aggressively from her hands, “that must have been the general manager. I can’t write anything down.”

By this point in life, I have learned not to argue with low-level employees. All it produces is tension. Most front-line retail workers are not people gifted  with high-levels of common sense or conflict resolution skills. If they were, they wouldn’t be front-line retail workers.

I acquiesced and left with my pizza and a plan to call the corporate headquarters.

Such incidents seem trivial, but behind them is a larger, indeed global, problem. As I have written before, little incidents like these in which the consumerist system that engulfs our culture breaks down, leave people feeling powerless. I felt powerless to get my take-out card and, ultimately, my promised free pizza. I don’t doubt that the woman behind the counter felt powerless to solve my problem.

I thought of all this again this week when reading James Kalb’s “ The Tyranny of Liberalism”. One point he makes again and again, is that under the global, liberal, consumerist system, we all transform ourselves into units of production and consumption in a way that serves the system. Indeed, this process of transformation now has more influence on how we understand our identities than the traditional, organic markers of identity: family, place, and religion.

This phenomenon expresses itself in peculiar ways in the retail sector. Take the experience I have just described as an example. The woman who refused to write down that I had purchased a pizza, no doubt, could see that my request was logical. But, because she is only a unit of production in the global system, she cannot act on her own. Her desire was not to cheat me out of a free pizza or to send me out of the restaurant disgruntled.

Her goal was to follow the rules. Because what I was asking for was a slight deviation from normal, she did not know how to apply the rules to this situation and decided to err on the side of not getting in trouble with her boss. This is what it means to be a unit of production in the global system.

Work has become divested of both personal significance and power. The woman I was dealing with had no investment in me, in her customers’ feelings about the establishment where she works, or in the success of the overall business. All those things are outside her role as a unit of production.

Her role is to follow procedure.

This would not be the case if she were actually the owner of the establishment. When people’s livelihood is directly dependent on the goodwill of customers, service improves. Workers have more flexibility. The current system, though it seems mammoth and unstoppable is, in fact, vulnerable because of the rigidity and apathy it engenders.

An economy of more locally owned businesses is both less abstract and more situated in local cultures. In such a situation, businesses become agents of preservation of the kinds of communities that allow traditional markers of identity: place, family, local custom etc. to flourish.

The global economy is inherently liberal in that it prefers abstraction to organic realities and seeks to make work as abstract an activity as possible. The reason the woman I encountered would not write down what I requested is that I was making a reasonable, historically-situated request and her only means of response was through the abstract, global policies of the corporation for whom she is an abstract unit of production.

Such weaknesses are causing growing ambivalence about the global marketplace. In the end, people desire to be more than merely units of production and consumption. We desire to be people  living in a personal and humane economy.  Such an arrangement satisfies the heart in non-material and intangible ways, and the service, almost always, is better.

My Appearance on the Mark Baxter Podcast

Last week, Mark Baxter and I sat down for a long chat on his podcast. You can hear it below, or on Mark’s site.

Why People Hate Corporations: A Personal Example

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The hard drive on our MacBook died Monday night. Every time we buy a new computer, I dread the day the drive goes kaput. Fortunately, I back up our data pretty regularly so at least the loss was minimal.

I made an appointment to take the thing to the genius bar at the nearest Apple store to let the technician there check it out and tell me what my options were.

I got there and waded through the mess of hipness to find the guy supposed to help me. He ran some tests and told me the drive was irreparable.

Replacing the drive would cost a couple hundred dollars, he said. Not good, but significantly less expensive than buying a replacement computer.  I told him to go ahead.

Because I was unsure if the process of restoring our files from the backup would be smooth, I asked him if I could keep the old hard drive after the new one was installed in case I needed to try recovering data directly from it.

He had to check about this with someone in the back. When he returned, he said I could.

Our family walked around the mall where the store is located for an hour and came back.

A different guy came out to help me. He brought my computer out, but not the old hard drive.  I sent him back to get it.

This time, when he returned, he had my old hard drive in his hand. He gave me both the drive and a lecture.  They were supposed to charge me, he said, to get the drive back, but the clerk had not set up my order that way.

See, he explained, the store sends the old hard drives back to Apple and gets some kind of credit for them. When a customer asks to keep their old hard drive, the store charges that person a fee to make up for the loss of the credit they would get from Apple. In this case, the clerk had forgotten to charge me. The guy talking to me wanted me to know that I was getting off easy, I guess.

And, this is why people hate corporations.

For all their sleek design and “think different” rhetoric, Apple is just another corporation out to bilk families for every possible dollar. That old hard drive was mine. I purchased it when I purchased the computer. In essence, the Apple guy wanted to charge me to return to me something that was mine. He seemed to expect me to feel sorry for Apple, Inc. for the loss that returning my property to me without charge supposedly creates for them.

I don’t feel sorry for them. I have pictures of my children stored on that hard drive. I have important documents on there. Apple has no right to that material.

Now, I am sure that hidden in their terms and conditions somewhere, they have some verbiage intended to cover them legally if anyone should object to their practice of selling consumers property they already own. It may be legally allowed, but that doesn’t make people hate them any less.

This is what free-market fanatics don’t get. By allowing huge corporations freedom to cheat consumers in these ways, they undermine families and the general trust level of society. Free-market hardliners are not really conservative.  Allowing corporations to get away with obviously underhanded, if legal, tactics in pursuit of ever greater wealth is a policy that leads not to stability but to upheaval at both the familial and cultural levels.

The real conservative move here would be for government to aid individual consumers in challenging such policies. Doing so would even the playing field a little and diminish the massive power differential present whenever a responsible father must go up against such a corporation just to hang on to a few pictures of his kids. That would send the message that it is families not corporations that matter, and that message is ultimately the truly conservative one.

 

Twitter Has Made Me a Better Man

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We like, sometimes, to imagine we are suited to life alone. We like to think we can press on and get things done with no help, and certainly no interference, from anyone else. Our culture encourages this. Modern people tend to regard themselves as individuals who happen to live in proximity to other individuals. Ours is an atomized society where connection is rare, temporary and, more often than not, shallow.

This arrangement hurts us all, but affects men perhaps especially strongly. Men have a hard time creating friendships in our culture. Normally, this is chalked up to men’s lack of emotion and a tendency to isolate ourselves. Those factors may have something to do with it, but there are deeper reasons. One is that our culture has made many men unsuitable for real friendship.

Most men, devoid of any real life role models, have, it appears, taken to trying to live out the stereotypes of men they see in media.  Most actively seem to desire to make themselves into caricatures of men, obsessed with sports, sex and stupidity, dedicated to perpetual adolescence and full of ego.

When the majority of men have succumbed to such brainwashing, it’s no wonder that deep, mutually beneficial friendships between us don’t flourish. What can friendship mean to such men, except that he has a series of interchangeable others with whom he can discuss his all-consuming obsessions?

If you are a man who dissents from the mainstream approach to life, who is interested in improving his lot, in leading his wife and children, and in being more than a mindless worker and consumer, good luck finding like-minded men. For guys like us, most social circles are barren fields producing little fruit.

None of this is good. Men are meant to have friends, brothers. Men improve one another when we band together. We cause one another to grow stronger. When you realize this, you begin to wonder if those in charge, those who have propagated the man-boy stereotypes that now dominate, have a reason to want to make it hard for men to strengthen one another.

I have found a dearth of men who are capable of this kind of symbiotic friendship wherever I have lived.  For this reason, I am grateful to have stumbled into such a band of men digitally, mostly via Twitter.

It is fashionable now to mock the tendency for people to be always on their phones, constantly engaged with digital rather than physical realities. While I certainly agree with some of those criticisms, they tend to dismiss very important facts. For example, they overlook the fact that the people I know only virtually are among the most interesting people I know at all. In the past year and a half or so, Twitter  has been my source for inspiring and transforming conversations.

I am a better man today than I was a year and a half  ago, in large part, due to my interactions online. Criticize all you want people who spend all their time on their phones, but for some of us, our devotion to online relationships is itself a criticism of the larger culture which has made real, transformative relationships, especially among men, almost impossible to find elswhere.

Overfocusing on the digital aspect of these relationships is a mistake. People are spiritual beings. Our spirits are not hampered by physical limitations. Read enough of somebody’s tweets, and you can get a sense of their mind, their spirit. A kind of union quickly becomes possible.

This is an uncontroversial thing to say about the authors of books. Everyone knows that even old books remain relevant and engaging if they present access to the mind and spirit of their authors. Even time is not an obstacle to such union and conversation. As with books, so with tweets.

A lot of the guys I’ve met on Twitter have take up residence in my mind. I think about their words. I speak back. More than once, I have felt my discipline slacking, found myself on the precipice of some counterproductive decision and thought, “What would the guys on Twitter say?”, and thus saved myself, at least for that moment, from a misstep.

Men, when we have the chance to form real relationships with other men of quality, sharpen each other. We live in a time where men of quality are not easily found. Yet, our inward need for a clan of others pursuing the same ends has drawn us together online. The beginnings of these friendships may have been digital, but the results are flesh and blood.

Real life relationships improve, character gets burnished, stuff get done when men find a way to encourage each other even across vast distances. When that happens, things get better, and that, my friends, is the ultimate proof of the power of a really good tweet.

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Stay Inside Yourself

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When the fictional Dillon Panthers are on the verge of winning a state championship in the final episode of season one of Friday Night Lights, Coach Taylor tell his players to stay inside themselves.  This seems like odd advice to give to a group of young men facing the enormous pressure of being tested in front of tens of thousands of people. I mean, if people aren’t inside themselves, where are they?

Upon reflection, Coach Taylor’s meaning becomes clear. Very often, most of us are not inside ourselves. Not being inside ourselves is a common and natural reaction to the stresses of life. Life is difficult and when that difficulty finds its way inside us, the natural response is to surrender inner space to the chaos plaguing us, and set out for calmer waters.

What does it mean then to stay inside yourself? It means keeping your mind focused on the actual situation you are in. It means being mindful of the moment and of the goal toward which you want to direct it. It means being aware of your body in its actual surroundings. Staying inside yourself, you can see, is tough for everyone.

It’s certainly tough for me. This post, as is the case with most of my posts, is written as much to myself as to anybody else.

Staying inside ourselves is hard due to both inner and outer factors. It’s like there’s a conspiracy to keep us outside ourselves.

Think of that space inside yourself as a house. Most people have trouble staying inside themselves because that inward house is an unpleasant place. It tends to be cluttered with bits of troubling memories, piles of self-loathing, bits of leftover resentments rotting away in the corners.

People whose inner homes are in such a state need not blame themselves overly much. Disorder is the natural state of the human heart. Just like order must be cultivated and maintained in the external world, so it must be in the internal one.

When our inner world is a painful or even merely unpleasant place to live, we have little motivation to stay inside ourselves. Getting that place cleaned up, aired out and set right would take a ton of work, and it seems easier just to go out. This tendency is compounded by the fact that most of us have lived so long with a messy inner world, we have no idea that it isn’t the only way things can be.  We’ve never known different.

This is hard to change because when people whose inner world is a mess encounter people who’ve done the necessary work to keep things inside as orderly as possible, they tend to assume those people, the ones whose orderly inner lives shine through, just somehow got lucky. The inwardly messy tell themselves that the inwardly ordered just haven’t suffered as much as they have, that somehow they got all the breaks. This kind of thinking leads to resentment which does nothing but clutter up the inward space all the more.

Add to the fact that most people are a mess inside the glittering enticements of the world, and it’s obvious why staying inside yourself is so difficult. We carry around within us an environment we want to escape and the world appears to lay open paths for us to do so. Instead of focusing on getting our inner mess cleaned up, we are enticed to squander our energies on whatever entertainments and diversions the world offers up. This has always been the case. It was so in the ancient world. It was so in the 17th century. Pascal complained about it vociferously.

But.

Things are different now, not in principle, but in degree. In previous eras, people had to go looking for diversions. Now each one of us carries in our pocket a distraction machine that once would have existed only in people’s wildest fantasies of the future.  We now need do no more than tap a couple of buttons to escape ourselves and sink into an endless stream of digital illusion.

And that’s the point. It’s illusion. The world doesn’t really offer us an escape from our inner mess. All it does is draw us out a little while and trick us into wasting our time or lead us into choices we regret. When we do finally come back to ourselves, we find the chaos inside worse, not better.

Not every means the world uses to draw us out of ourselves is pleasurable. Many of us our driven outside ourselves by the daily travails of life. Worry and anxiety make it hard to stay centered within. Just as we can spend hours oblivious to our inner world by mindlessly clicking around the internet, so too we can lose those hours imagining terrible things that might happen. Both are equally pointless.

Given all this, what do we make of Coach Taylor’s advice?

Simply this: people who can’t stay inside themselves, even in high pressure situations, won’t become all they are meant to be. The key to moving toward that end, toward actualizing that image in your mind, is to spend more time inside yourself.

Describing how to do this would require a full post, maybe a series of posts. Let me just mention what I’ve learned that has helped me more than anything.

The Most Important Thing is to Straighten Out Your Inner Mess.

This is a lifelong process and your gains require constant maintenance. Things inside will never be perfect, but here are a few practices that might make them better:

  • Figure out and enforce your boundaries, tell people when they violate them.
  • Spend time in silence.
  • Make a list of all the unfinished business you have with others. Finish what you can. Let go of what can’t be finished.
  • Forgive those who’ve wronged you, even if they won’t acknowledge their wrongdoing.
  • Get clear on your values, priorities and your vision for what kind of person you want to be.
  • Always be bringing your mind back to the present moment. Focus on the present.
  • When you indulge in entertainment or distractions, do so on purpose. Don’t mindlessly consume.

Doing these things can’t hurt and in all likelihood will push you along the way to a calmer, more ordered inner life, an inner house where you will be happy to spend your time. The end result is that you will feel more settled, more grounded, more secure. Then when the pressure comes, you will be able to meet it from a place of strength and greater serenity.

Events in the external world will seem less important than they once did because your foundation is no longer tied to the shifting conditions of the world. You will know your place is inside yourself, and there you will find there some measure of rest. After a while, even when tested, you will carry your silence with you because you will have built for it a proper, inward place to dwell.

People Love Fixer Upper Because Their Lives are Broken

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When Chip and Joanna Gaines, the hosts of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, came into the national spotlight a few weeks ago for attending a church whose pastor had made some remarks critical of gay marriage, an interesting thing happened. In previous years, something like this would have ended the Gaines’ public career. The fact that this didn’t happen to the Chip and Joanna indicates a cultural shift for sure, but part of what protected them from the punishment previously meted out upon those who question our cultural orthodoxy is their enormous popularity.

Watch the show a few times, and it’s obvious why they’re popular. Naturally, watching the transformation of a run down, bland house into something spectacular is fun. Of course, the hosts’ personalities are engaging, their interactions charming. But, this is true for all kinds of cable reality shows. Something more is happening on Fixer Upper.

Millions tune into this program, not just to watch a construction project, but to witness the Gaines’ life, their relationship to one another and to bask in the warmth of the values they represent. What makes Fixer Upper popular isn’t just construction and decor. It isn’t even the Gaines’ personalities. It is that the show portrays traditional, life-giving values in a culture set on eradicating them. People don’t tune into Fixer Upper to see a house remodeled, they tune in to catch a glimpse of something that tells them that in spite of all the voices that say otherwise maturity, family and faith are possible. They tune in for a little hope.

Much of what draws them is the way Chip and Joanna relate. They love one another. What we see on the screen could, of course, be fake. TV people are in the illusion business, after all. For all we know when the cameras are off, the Gaineses could be small, miserable, angry people.

That’s possible, but the evidence suggests that what we see of the Gaineses on their television show is something very close to what they are in daily life. They appear to have figured out how to relate to one another in a way that grants each of them peace and security. Their affection for one another seems genuine. Their relationship seems devoid of the undercurrents of resentment and bitterness that mar so many families.

People are drawn to such images. See, the world is very dark and growing darker. Most of us recognize this fact in the abstract. We know that people live unhappy lives. We know that to some degree or another our own lives are unhappy.

This unhappiness is now so pervasive we accept it as normal.  The darkness tends to blind us even to itself. We take all manner of unhappiness so much for granted that we fail to note exactly how dark that darkness is. Without a clear experience of brilliant sunlight, for example, we tend to think the gloom of our personal cave is as good as it gets.

Such is the situation for millions of Fixer upper viewers out there. They sit in front of their televisions escaping a little while their own dark lives. For 43 minutes, they find solace in whatever bit of light Chip and Joanna shine in yet another predictable narrative of a home made new.

That light, of course, doesn’t come from Chip and Joanna personally. Rather it comes from the values they live out onscreen. It is the truth of what they are committed to: family, virtue, faith, that, in the guise of just one more reality show, speaks to people, encourages them, helps them press on despite it all.

Not that the format of the show doesn’t matter. It does. People love to watch the Gainses, because the Gainses transform things. People in the grip of their painful pasts and unwieldy habits long to see something, anything made new.

What the Gainses represent to many, many people is the hope of renewal. When audiences watch Fixer Upper, they don’t identify so much with the Gainses. They don’t even mostly identify with the couple buying the home. They identify with the house.

The show speaks to the longing in millions of hearts to have the values the Gainses represent sweep in and make new the dilapidated structure of their lives. Watching the Gainses make new something falling apart and to do so with charm and skill and good humor eases many people’s desperation.  And for this meager solace they will keep on tuning in. They will tune in again and again to see people who stand out because they can fix things up in a world falling apart.

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On The Temptations of Politics

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Next to the defeat of Clinton and the consequent derailment of her globalist, left-wing agenda, the best thing about the election season is that it’s over. Trump won, and from here out we will return to the daily grind of governing and being governed. Even if the new normal entails endless protests from disgruntled children stomping their feet in the streets, things will return to routine.

For sane people, this should mean the chance to relax our focus on politics. Those of us who felt compelled to wade into the fray, even to a small degree, to stop Clinton can return to thinking primarily about other less urgent, more important matters.

The temptation, of course, is not to do so. Perhaps especially after a tumultuous, high-stakes election, the temptation for many of us is to stay glued to the television, to continuously refresh the Drudge Report, hungry for any morsel of information that might let us know what will happen next.

For some, this is anxiety at work. As a nation, we are in uncharted territory. Trump’s victory is significant, not only because it indicates a shift in power, but because it seems to herald a deeper shift in our culture, in the overall zeitgeist. It’s tempting to try to calm jittery nerves by staying attuned to any development that might let us know more about where we are going.

For a larger group though, the temptation to over-focus on politics is simply the temptation to indulge their outrage addiction. There’s plenty to be outraged by. The outrage generated this weekend by the cast of Hamilton delivering a sanctimonious lecture to the vice-president elect is enough to see us through a full four-year term. But, rest assured, more outrages will come. They come now on a daily basis. This is the way of a dying culture.

Being outraged feels good. Leaving that zinger of a comment on a liberal friend’s Facebook post that you are sure will leave her speechless in light of your insight and wit feels like striking a blow for all the is good and wholesome and right. But, it’s an illusion, at least mostly an illusion.

The other day, Sarah Albers, who tweets under the handle @goingblondzo, had something valuable to say. She wrote:

I agreed, but pointed out that they are also the least fun, and so the least utilized. Certainly, the fun they produce pales in comparison to the fun of a few minutes of political outrage. We all know this, thus our greater temptation to outrage than to silence.

We’re also tempted to keep our focus on politics to a degree that the daily ins and outs of power do not warrant because doing so makes us feel part of a team, powerful, relevant. Somehow, we imagine that the daily wins and losses of the political process are our personal wins and losses. Politics becomes a kind of theater whose purpose is to enliven our drudgery, excite our emotions amidst our menial and difficult lives. Keeping close track of the travails of our side lifts us out of and, too often, distracts us from the hard work we’ve been assigned right where we are.

And that work, the totally unglamorous, everyday work of our callings and missions is a better focus for us than politics. Politics is the exterior of the house. We must attend to the foundation as only we can. The power of the state can only do so much, and what it can do is not enough to revive our ailing society.

Instead, we must keep the churning of the political world in perspective, grateful for what good it can do, but not expecting more. We must focus our labors on what is too deep for politics to touch. This means parenting, teaching, being a neighbor, practicing the slow, hard art of persuasive conversation.

Every choice we face is an opportunity to defend Truth, and Goodness, Beauty and Civilization. The man who, now that election is decided, turns off the news to lift his child into the air and swirl her madly in the mundane air of a boring old living room, does more to secure our future than most can imagine. Let us all, every one, be that man in this new and even more important season.

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Daddy Issues, or How to Make the World Safe for Femininity

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People ask me what it’s like to be the only man in a home with three women. I tell them it’s fine, it just means that at any given moment, there is a 50 percent chance that somebody is crying.

Sure, I’m joking, but, you know, joking in the sense of saying something completely accurate. I’m not complaining. It’s all part of the feminine experience which is, ultimately, good.

Still, as the father of two young girls, I am witness to so much crying, a lot of it about things it would never have occurred to me to cry about.

CD player won’t work? Cry about it.

Can’t separate a couple of LEGOs? Cry about it.

Don’t know where you put your hairbrush? Throw yourself and the floor and sob.

Some of this is just childishness. But a lot of it is pure feminine energy that is as of yet, unformed and immature. Nothing puts the differences between male and female in high relief like raising children of the opposite sex.

For example, let’s consider my reactions as a boy to the above scenarios.

CD player won’t work? Yell for dad.

Can’t separate a couple of LEGO’s? Throw them against the wall until they blow apart.

Don’t know where you put your hairbrush? Great. Maybe mom won’t be able to find it either.

Boys and girls are, you can no doubt see, different.

And so, the role of the father is different in the lives of boys and girls. The role of a father in a girls’ life is to make a space, a safe protected space, where the untutored, feminine wildness she embodies can be lovingly trained into mature womanhood.

It’s no easy task.

Both of my daughters are very girly girls. Every day, I step over mounds of My Little Ponies, wade through rivers of barrettes, hair bands and stuffed animals. I’ve lost count of how many Barbies are in our house. Never once have they asked for a toy sword or bow and arrow, my favorite childhood toys.

Part of my job is to provide a contrast to that nascent femininity. That’s one reason fathers are important in girls’ lives.

In an age that celebrates single mothers as valiant and courageous, we are told that fathers don’t matter. Press some people, and they might grant that ok, boys need fathers to teach them how to be men, but little girls? Little girls have moms, and moms can do it all! Moms are all we need!

Like most of what we hear in the esteemed outlets of mainstream opinion, this notion is bogus.

The fact is that little girls needs fathers every bit as much as little boys. Healthy, mature femininity grows from a father’s masculinity as much as from the femininity mother models.

In her father, a little girl finds the solid rock of masculine authority, clarity and protection. Without this, she cannot grow up to be an emotionally healthy woman unafraid to embrace her feminine nature. Femininity blossoms best within a the garden of the home surrounded by the strong walls of a father’s love.

Little girls know this intuitively. When the wall that should be surround them is, for whatever reason, less than secure, something goes haywire in their development. Instead of a beautiful flower, weeds and brambles grow.

Most fathers now, simply don’t provide the kind of foundation little girls need. Seeing the effects of this requires no great insight. Hatred of femininity among women is epidemic. The determination to take on men in every avenue of life to the attempt to look, to behave like men, the outright attacks on their own bodies in the form of numerous piercings and tattoos, all make it obvious a lot of women have not had the foundation of a strong father.

There is a reason why dysfunctional women are jokingly referred to in popular culture as having “Daddy Issues”. Most people intuit that a failed relationship with her father is going to have lifelong implications for a woman. This fact is often treated dismissively because to take it seriously would mean contradicting certain tenets of contemporary orthodoxy, specifically the notions that men and and women are exactly the same and that therefore a mother alone is just as good as a mother and father together.

The widespread idea that men in general, and fathers specifically, are worthless has left in its wake a countless horde of damaged feminine souls. When daddy is kicked out of the picture, he isn’t replaced by mommy, but by a whole host of dysfunctions ranging from depression to full-blown cluster b disorders. Again, the foundation of healthy femininity in a daughter is healthy masculinity in her father.

Even most fathers now can’t see this. Young women suffer most, not because feminists believe their fathers are worthless, but because fathers believe fathers are worthless. As fathers have come to accept their status as an unnecessary appendage to the family, things have gone downhill for girls. If feminists were really concerned about the welfare of women, they would be focusing their efforts not on organizing yet another slutwalk, but on strengthening and honoring fathers.

They will never do this. So, we must. The only way out of this situation, the only way to make the world safe for femininity is for fathers to to assert our masculine nature. We must know ourselves and our duties. We must throw off the shame laid upon us by a feminized culture. It is we, and we alone, who can raise the necessary walls, enforce the border between the damaging forces of the world and the feminine souls they seek to devour.

Only a father’s love can make the space a little girl needs to become a glory, a fully mature expression of all that is good in the feminine. Only a father’s love can be that base, a solid rock in the churning world upon which the souls of little girls might firmly stand.

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Taking Stock: Reflections on a Year of Blogging

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Photo via Daphne Cholet

People sometimes say blogging is dead. They may as well say writing is dead’ or that ideas are dead. As long as people want to read others’ thoughts and writers desire to share them, blogging will be alive and well.

That’s one of the things that has been confirmed to me this year.

I began blogging in earnest 12 months ago. On such an anniversary, a bit of a meta-post seems appropriate, a chance to take stock and to look ahead.

Prior to jumping into blogging and making a commitment to stick to it a year ago, I had posted here intermittently. I finished 2015 with somewhere around 11,000 views. I am on track to finish this year with about 50,000. In the wide scope of Internet traffic, 50,000 is a small number, but I am pleased with the growth that steady posting has garnered. I hope that, a year from now, that number will be even higher.

Telling myself that growth is possible if I work at it is easier when the numbers bear it out.

For a long time, I worried about my niche. I think I have found it. My mistake in earlier days was thinking I could find my blogging niche by doing something other than blogging. Not true. Rather, as I write posts around the themes that matter most to me, my niche emerges.

It’s clear that I am not really part of the “manosphere” though I often write about men. I am not part of the alt-right blogosphere either. I am, I have discovered, out here pursuing my own thing, responding the issues that plague me.

At the heart of all my thinking is a single question: “What does being at home, as much as possible, in the world require?” All the posts I have written in the last twelve months are, in some way, an answer to that question.

Such a question is, of course, broad and so allows deep exploration and admits of multiple answers. This year, my posts have tended to answer that question in the micro by focusing on personal character and on cultivating relationships.

Going forward, I expect that will change somewhat. I sense my interests shifting toward analyzing those social trends that make founding and maintaining a thriving home almost impossible.

Looking at reader response, it seems there is an audience for posts that address this question from both micro and macro perspectives. My most popular post of the year was this one, about the shooting of Harambe, the gorilla and the underlying problem of our separation from the realities of nature. However in my five most popular posts of the year, about half are oriented toward the personal.

My desire is to write more deeply in the next year, to challenge myself to think more fully about the many facets of the question central to this blog, to my life. Because that means thinking in broader terms about social arrangements and more deeply about psychological issues, I expect to move away from writing advice-type posts, at least for a while.

I suppose my ultimate goals with this blog are four-fold. I want: 1) to create value for people out there who are bewildered by the stupidity, venality and staggering loneliness of our modern world, 2) to explore through writing questions that preoccupy my mind 3) to mount a defense against the attacks to which the modern world constantly subjects the precious and fragile things 4) to, if possible, earn some income to help me and mine keep going.

Your feedback about how I am accomplishing those goals is always appreciated.

What’s different now from a year ago is that I have a much clearer notion of my purpose and, consequently, of this blog’s purpose. What I hope becomes clear in the following months is how exactly to best work that out.

So, that’s where I am, one year down, having produced some good work. Now, on into the uncertain future.

Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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